The Link Between Menstrual Cycle and Skin Changes: What You Need to Know

What is the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is a natural and normal process that occurs in the female body, typically lasting about 28 days. This cycle involves hormonal changes that lead to the shedding of the uterine lining, known as menstruation. Understanding the menstrual cycle is essential for women's reproductive health and overall wellness. In this article, we will explore the stages of the menstrual cycle, the hormones involved, and the various physical and emotional changes that women may experience throughout this monthly process. We will also discuss the importance of tracking and understanding one's menstrual cycle for fertility, contraception, and overall health. Whether you're a woman looking to learn more about your own body or someone seeking to understand and support the women in your life, this guide will provide valuable insights into the menstrual cycle.

How Does It Impact Skin?

The menstrual cycle can significantly impact the skin, leading to changes in oiliness, dryness, and overall texture. These changes are largely influenced by hormonal fluctuations, particularly estrogen and progesterone.

During the different phases of the menstrual cycle, the levels of estrogen and progesterone rise and fall, causing noticeable differences in the skin. For example, during the follicular phase (days 1–14), when estrogen levels are increasing, many women experience clearer and more radiant skin with reduced oiliness. In contrast, during the luteal phase (days 15–28), when progesterone levels are elevated, the skin may become oilier, leading to an increased risk of acne breakouts. Additionally, some women may also experience dryness and sensitivity during this phase.

Estrogen is known to enhance skin hydration, thickness, and elasticity, while progesterone can stimulate oil production and lead to clogged pores.

Limit your intake of inflammatory foods such as sugar, dairy, and refined carbohydrates to improve your hormonal skin. You can also include foods that fight excess androgens in your diet, such as healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, leafy greens, and zinc-rich meals.

To comprehend the skin changes that occur during our menstrual cycle, as well as the overall impact of our cycle on our skin, we must first discuss the entire menstrual cycle, not just periods. Various hormones are at work during our cycle, peaking, troughing, and activating different portions of it.

As previously stated, testosterone has a significant influence in acne. So, immediately before our period, when levels are greater than the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, we're more prone to spots and acne outbreaks.

Overall, the menstrual cycle has a direct impact on the skin, causing fluctuations in oiliness, dryness, and texture, all of which are heavily influenced by the levels of estrogen and progesterone throughout the different phases.

The Link Between Hormones and Skin Changes

Hormones play a significant role in skin changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all have an impact on skin texture, oiliness, and the appearance of acne.

Let us begin with the two most important female sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone. "Although the effects of estrogen and progesterone on the skin are still not fully understood, studies show that women undergoing the menopausal transition, where estrogen and progesterone levels are declining, have a variety of cutaneous changes," Dr. Liles said. She claims that these skin alterations in postmenopausal women include dryness, atrophy, thinning, falling dermal collagen content, diminished skin hydration, decreased flexibility, and impaired wound healing.

The menstrual cycle typically lasts 28 days, beginning on the first day of your period. Your skin can fluctuate a lot during that month, moving from reasonably acne-free in the second week of your cycle to those pesky cystic patches reappearing around the time PMS kicks in for the run-up to your period. So, what exactly is going on?

During the luteal phase, which occurs after ovulation and is characterized by high progesterone levels and low estrogen levels, increased sebum production and oily skin are common. This is due to the hormonal imbalance leading to overactive sebaceous glands, which can result in acne breakouts.

Specific skincare recommendations to address these hormonal changes include careful cleansing to remove excess oil and dirt, as well as using a light moisturizer to prevent the skin from becoming too dry. Additionally, using products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help control oil and treat acne during this phase.

Understanding the link between hormones and skin changes during the menstrual cycle can aid in developing a targeted skincare routine to manage these fluctuations effectively. By adjusting skincare habits according to the specific hormonal changes, it is possible to minimize the impact on the skin.

According to studies, our skin becomes more sensitive around the time of our period, which could be due to low levels of oestrogen during this time. Oestrogen levels naturally fall during the perimenopause and menopause, and the same study discovered that menopausal women have more sensitive skin.

Follicular Phase

The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle marks the beginning of a woman's reproductive cycle. This phase starts on the first day of menstruation and continues until ovulation. During this time, the ovaries begin to mature and release an egg in preparation for fertilization. The follicular phase is characterized by rising levels of estrogen, which stimulate the thickening of the uterus lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy. As the follicular phase progresses, one dominant follicle will eventually emerge and prepare to release an egg during ovulation. Understanding the follicular phase is important for women who are trying to conceive, as it is the time when their fertility is at its peak. Additionally, it is also beneficial for women who are not trying to conceive, as they can track their cycle and hormonal fluctuations to understand their reproductive health. Monitoring and understanding the follicular phase can provide valuable insight into a woman's overall well-being.

Estrogen Levels Increase

Estrogen levels increase during the menstrual cycle, specifically during the follicular phase. This phase begins on the first day of menstruation and lasts until ovulation. During the follicular phase, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates the growth of egg follicles in the ovaries. As the egg follicles mature, they release estrogen, causing a gradual increase in estrogen levels in the bloodstream.

Estrogen plays a crucial role in the development of egg follicles and the thickening of the endometrium. It helps to stimulate the growth and development of the egg follicles, preparing them for ovulation. Additionally, estrogen leads to the thickening of the endometrial lining in the uterus, creating a nourishing environment for a potential embryo to implant.

Increased estrogen levels can also lead to an increase in sebum production, which can potentially result in breakouts. Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. Higher levels of estrogen can stimulate these glands, leading to an overproduction of sebum and subsequently causing acne or breakouts, especially around the time of ovulation, when estrogen levels peak.

Collagen Production Increases

Collagen production is vital for maintaining skin elasticity, joint health, and overall connective tissue function. Consuming foods high in vitamin C, amino acids, and antioxidants, such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, and nuts, can increase collagen production in the body. Vitamin C is crucial for collagen synthesis, while amino acids like proline and glycine are essential building blocks of collagen. Antioxidants help protect existing collagen from damage.

Engaging in regular exercise also stimulates collagen production by promoting blood flow, which delivers nutrients to the skin and other tissues. Adequate sleep is equally important, as it allows the body to repair and regenerate, including collagen production and repair.

Collagen-boosting activities and nutrients should be incorporated into a daily routine to promote overall health and wellness. By prioritizing a balanced diet rich in vitamin C, amino acids, and antioxidants, alongside regular exercise and sufficient sleep, individuals can support optimal collagen production and maintain healthy skin, joints, and connective tissues. Integrating these habits into daily life can help individuals experience the numerous benefits of increased collagen production.

Oily Skin Becomes More Common

One way to address the increased occurrence of oily skin during the menstrual cycle is by using oil-absorbing products and practicing regular cleansing. Look for oil-free and non-comedogenic skincare products that are specifically formulated for oily skin. These products can help to control excess oil production and prevent breakouts.

Additionally, using a suitable face mask once or twice a week can also help to manage excess oil. Look for face masks specifically designed for oily or acne-prone skin, containing ingredients like clay, charcoal, or salicylic acid, which can help to absorb excess oil and purify the skin.

It's important to adjust your skincare routine according to hormonal changes during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. During this phase, the skin may produce more oil, so it may be necessary to use more oil-absorbing products and pay extra attention to cleansing the skin. Some people find that using a gentle exfoliant can also help to control oil production and prevent clogged pores.

Overall, managing oily skin during the menstrual cycle requires using the right products and adjusting your skincare routine to accommodate hormonal changes. By incorporating oil-absorbing products, regular cleansing, and suitable face masks into your skincare routine, you can better manage excess oil and maintain clearer, healthier-looking skin.

Changes to Skincare Routine During Follicular Phase

During the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle, it's important to focus on maintenance in your skincare routine. This is the best time to try out new products and pay attention to any breakout of spots around ovulation.

To maintain healthy and glowing skin during this phase, consider incorporating a gentle cleanser to remove excess oil and dirt. Use a hydrating serum to boost your skin's hydration levels and address any early signs of aging. Don't forget to apply an eye cream to reduce puffiness and dark circles. Moisturize with a lightweight formula to keep your skin supple without feeling greasy. Lastly, never forget to protect your skin from sun damage with a high SPF.

As part of your self-care routine during the follicular phase, consider incorporating breast massage and touching to become familiar with your own body. This practice not only serves as a form of self-examination for breast health but also promotes relaxation and self-awareness.

In summary, during the follicular phase, focus on maintaining your skincare routine, trying out new products, and paying attention to any breakout of spots. Incorporate a cleanser, serum, eye cream, moisturizer, and SPF, and consider touching and massaging your breasts as part of your self-care routine.

Ovulation Phase

The ovulation phase is a crucial stage in the menstrual cycle of women, typically occurring around day 14. During this phase, an egg is released from the ovary and makes its way to the fallopian tube, where it is available for fertilization. This phase is governed by a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) and a peak in estrogen levels, which trigger the release of the egg. Ovulation is considered the most fertile time in a woman's cycle, and many women track their ovulation to maximize their chances of conception. Understanding the signs and symptoms of ovulation, such as changes in cervical mucus and a slight increase in basal body temperature, can be helpful in identifying this phase. Additionally, ovulation can also cause slight discomfort or pain on one side of the lower abdomen, known as mittelschmerz. Overall, the ovulation phase is a crucial factor in a woman's reproductive health, and understanding it can be important for family planning or fertility purposes.

Sebaceous Glands Produce More Oil

Sebaceous glands are responsible for producing sebum, an oily substance that helps protect the skin and regulate moisture levels. When the body experiences hormonal changes or external factors like hot and humid weather, sebaceous glands can produce more oil by increasing sebum production.

The process of increased oil production begins with hormonal signals that stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. In hot and humid weather, the increased temperature and moisture can also trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more oil to help maintain the skin's barrier function.

Sebum plays a crucial role in protecting the skin by providing a natural barrier against environmental factors and preventing excessive moisture loss. However, overproduction of sebum can lead to oily skin and clogged pores, which can result in acne. The excess oil can also contribute to inflammation and skin irritation.

In conclusion, while sebum is essential for skin health, excessive production can lead to oily skin and acne. Understanding the factors that trigger increased oil production can help individuals manage their skin health and prevent skin concerns associated with overproduction of sebum.

Hyaluronic Acid Production Increases

Hyaluronic acid production can be increased by using certain skincare products and treatments that are specifically formulated to stimulate its production. Topical creams and serums containing hyaluronic acid itself can help increase its production by providing the skin with the necessary building blocks. Additionally, dermal fillers, which are injected into the skin, can also stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid by promoting the body's natural healing response.

Certain ingredients in skincare products can also play a crucial role in stimulating hyaluronic acid production. Retinoids, such as retinol, can help to increase hyaluronic acid production by promoting collagen synthesis in the skin, which in turn supports the production of hyaluronic acid. Vitamin C is another key ingredient that can stimulate hyaluronic acid production by promoting the production of collagen and protecting existing hyaluronic acid from degradation.

Incorporating these products and ingredients into your skincare routine can help boost hyaluronic acid production, leading to improved skin hydration, firmness, and elasticity. It's important to note that while topical products can be effective in increasing hyaluronic acid production, results may vary,, and it's always best to consult with a skincare professional for personalized recommendations.

An oily substance known as Sebum Coats the Skin

Sebum is an oily substance produced by the body's sebaceous glands, which are located under the skin's surface. It is a natural moisturizer that helps to keep the skin hydrated and soft. However, an overproduction of sebum can lead to oily skin.

To address oily skin caused by an excess of sebum, it is important to cleanse the skin regularly to remove the buildup of oil and dirt. Using face masks specifically designed to soak up excess oil can also help control oily skin.

Hormonal changes can lead to an increase in sebum production. For example, the rise in progesterone levels during menstruation can stimulate the sebaceous glands, resulting in oilier skin. Likewise, the effects of testosterone can also trigger an increase in sebum production, which explains why oily skin is common during puberty.

In conclusion, sebum production is a natural process that helps to moisturize the skin, but an excess of sebum can lead to oily skin. Regular cleansing and using products to control oil production can help manage oily skin. Additionally, hormonal changes, such as a rise in progesterone levels and the effects of testosterone, can also contribute to an increase in sebum production.

Different Types of Skin During Ovulation Phase

During the ovulation phase, women may experience different types of skin, including oily, glowing, and potentially increased oiliness. Oily skin is common during this time, as hormone levels fluctuate, leading to increased sebum production. This can result in a glowing complexion, but it may also lead to increased oiliness and potential breakouts.

To address these skin changes, it's important to focus on non-comedogenic skincare, which means using products that won't clog pores. A simple, maintenance-focused routine is key during this time. Start by cleansing the skin with a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to remove excess oil and impurities. Follow up with a non-comedogenic moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated without adding to the oiliness. Lastly, use a non-comedogenic sunscreen to protect the skin from UV damage.

Incorporating non-comedogenic products into a maintenance routine can help manage oily, glowing, and increased oiliness during the ovulation phase, keeping the skin balanced and healthy.

Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is the second half of the menstrual cycle, occurring after ovulation and before the start of menstruation. This phase typically lasts around 12–14 days and is characterized by the release of the hormone progesterone, which prepares the uterine lining for the potential implantation of a fertilized egg. Understanding the luteal phase is important for women trying to conceive, as a healthy luteal phase is crucial for successful implantation and pregnancy. In this section, we will explore the length of the luteal phase, its role in the menstrual cycle, and how it can impact fertility and overall reproductive health. We will also delve into ways to support and maintain a healthy luteal phase, including lifestyle changes, supplements, and medical interventions. Understanding the luteal phase and its significance can empower women in their reproductive journey and help them make informed decisions about their fertility and overall health.

Progesterone Levels Increase

During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, progesterone levels rise in preparation for a possible pregnancy. This increase in progesterone can have a significant impact on the skin. Progesterone can lead to increased oil production in the skin, resulting in a higher likelihood of acne breakouts. It can also exacerbate existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, atopic eczema, and irritant dermatitis.

The hormonal changes that occur during menstruation, particularly the rise in progesterone, can contribute to the development or worsening of these skin conditions. Increased progesterone can also lead to skin sensitivity and inflammation, making the skin more susceptible to irritation and rashes.

Potential consequences of increased progesterone on the skin include acne flare-ups, aggravation of psoriasis and eczema, and heightened skin sensitivity. To anticipate and possibly prevent these unwanted outcomes, it is important to maintain a consistent skincare routine and possibly adjust it to accommodate hormonal fluctuations. This may include using gentle, non-comedogenic skincare products, managing stress levels, and consulting a dermatologist for personalized recommendations.